You wake up in the morning, the birds are singing, you had time for a delicious beverage and then you approach your computer say hello and there it is in your Inbox that email you have been waiting for! The review for your latest book has arrived!
Tenuously you click the link, and then there it is! Your heart sinks into your shoes and you feel a moment of dread followed by compulsions to toss your computer out the window, cry into a box of tissues or say to hell with it and slink away into a hole from which you shall never put words to paper again.
But, how to rationally cope? As a new author, I had no idea what it would be like to put out a book. I had no grand plans to become the next JK Rowling, I just wanted to get this stuff out of my head. I carried around the ideas for so long I had to get them out, and so with little knowledge of how to do that, I sat with a tablet PC in one hand and my newborn in the other and proceeded to write down all these ideas. Before I knew it, I had written a book.
Then the reviews came in, for the most part they were not too bad, there were a few that were a little mean, but were pretty good and I took the constructive criticism to heart, making notes and watching what I do in future work. But the hard part was picking out the constructive bits!
But can you imagine if the reviews you read contained words like: “I have . . . come across some truly awful books. And yet not a single one of them has managed to cause me quite as much gastrointestinal distress as has [this one.] – Amazon.com”
or even better: “I weep for the souls of the trees that died to make this book. – SFX magazine”
The harshness seems personal and always directed straight at you, but then you start to realize several truths. I only realized these after my husband who is wonderfully supportive, Taylor Ellwood our Non-Fiction Editor and Storm Constantine our CEO 🙂 gave me many emails and words of encouragement.
As they all pointed out, regardless of all the good things said to you, the negative ones stand out! So, what can one do! These tips below are some really good pieces of advice that I think I might print and frame over my PC along with the mantra “I am a good writer” and maybe one of those cute hanging cats just to keep my sense of humour alive!
I have learned that there will always be negativity, but remember that where there are critics there are fans and sometimes believe it or not negative reviews can actually increase book sales. That sounds so crazy, but when you think about it, there is some truth to it. I often will go to a movie just because some critic said it was terrible, I want to see what they thought was so bad and sometimes I don’t know, I find that I don’t always agree with them! You cannot make everyone happy despite our best efforts, so there will always be those out there who have something bad to say, the point is that we can either let it affect us or we can rise above it, dust ourself off and write!
Below are some collected tidbits on bad reviews that I thought I would share, thankfully for me at least my reviewers were not that harsh, and reading those makes me feel so much empathy for whomever received a review like that and hope that I never have to face such cruelty:
- Bad reviews are bad by their mere existence, and worse yet, “Reviews are one-way missiles; writers are seldom allowed to fire back, for ethical reasons,” says Bear. But it seems that bad reviews are not all bad news.Finlay believes that “very bad reviews are the next best thing to good reviews. If people are talking about your book passionately, it’s more likely to reach some readers who’ll like it but would never have found it otherwise.” A bad mention can better than no mention at all, particularly for those readers who are skeptical of reviews.
- No author likes to get negative reviews. An isolated case can be put down to someone’s personal opinion or a minority view, but when the bad reviews keep coming, it is time to take notice. The following steps may be taken:
Read each bad review once, once only. Differentiate between unhelpful/non-objective/subjective views from meaningful critique. This might be: ‘the novel is too wordy,’ or ‘the characters are not authentic’ or ‘nothing ever happens for pages.’ Look for common themes. Is a particular issue mentioned more than once?
- Don’t copy each review verbatim, record the issue raised in your own words, reflecting what has been said, but make it more palatable, such as ‘review 1 suggests I need to tighten the plot in the centre of the novel,’ or ‘review 2 suggests I need to do more research into the background history of my novel.’
- Remember only take note of reviews that offer a meaningful critique, not ranting, offensive or rambling disparagement. Even then, not everything someone says need be taken as gospel. A trusted friend or literary consultant may be called upon to gain an objective view, failing that, the author may step back before considering the issues with a clear mind. Even constructive criticism served tactfully can be hard to receive, but such a critique can prove invaluable to the writer.
- “Getting a bad review is a good topic. I’ve learned that when writing, you cannot write for others. You must write for yourself. There will always be someone out there who doesn’t see things your way. And you mustn’t get distraught over this. It’s just a part of the profession. Take the review for what it’s worth: ask yourself if it’s a critique or an opinion. Opinions you can’t change. Critiques you can learn from. I’ve found that once you’ve deciphered the difference, you can move on, with the knowledge that you’ve gained something important. To me, a bad review is just as helpful as a good one.”